You’ve probably seen some incredible landscape shots captured in broad daylight and noticed bright blue skies with amazingly white clouds. But when you try to take your own photo of the sky, more often than not it’s quite dull and lacking that vibrancy you were hoping for. That’s because our cameras can’t capture color tones exactly as we see them. It’s most likely that the photographer who shot the perfectly bright blue sky was using a polarizing filter.
Now, what are polarizing filters? A polarizer is great photography tool used to enhance saturation and contrast in order to produce images with that wow factor without having to use any photo editing software like Photoshop. Therefore, it’s pretty safe to say that any photographer’s gear bag would be incomplete if it doesn’t contain a polarizing filter.
A polarizing filter adds some great effects to your images by allowing light rays of specific wavelengths to pass through it. It cuts through haze, making the skies more clear and blue and boosts contrast between the sky and the clouds to make your images look stunning.
It can be super useful to shoot using a polarizing filter on sunny days to get the best results. The subject you are shooting should be at a 90-degree to the direction of the sunlight. After attaching the filter to the end of the lens, you can adjust the intensity of the polarizing effect by simply rotating its outer ring.
Be sure to set your white balance to a fixed setting like ‘Daylight’ as it will ensure your DSLR doesn’t interfere into the functionality of the lens filter. If you are getting overly bright results, adjust the exposure compensation to around -2/3-stop to -1-stop.
Below are some of the most popular polarizing filters on the market today.
1. B+W 77mm XS-Pro HTC Kaesemann Circular Polarizer (Overall Winner)
The B+W 77mm XS-Pro HTC Kaesemann by Schneider Optics is one of the best circular polarizers. Its multi-resistant nano-coating does a great job to prevent glare and reflections on water and shiny surfaces.
The more basic B+W F-Pro MRC has a standard range of multi-coatings and a thick profile – though still thinner than Hoya’s filters. The XS-Pro ‘Nano’ edition, on the other hand, has an ultra-thin profile and features uprated coatings which are water- and dirt-resistant, as well as extremely anti-reflective. It is also easier to clean. A brass frame with a matte black finish encloses a high-quality Schott glass.
With the ultra-thin profile that XS-Pro has, vignetting is unlikely but it can be a bit tricky for you to adjust the outer ring.
The Hoya PRO1 packs Digital Multi-Coated (DMC) technology which helps you avoid ghosting and flaring effects. It features Low Profile Frame (LPF) with an ultra-thin filter frame to counter the vignetting effect on wide-angle lenses.
The PRO1 has been specifically designed for digital cameras. It produces outstanding results with strong contrast while maintaining the overall color balance of the image.
From its lightweight build to the striking images it produces, this PRO1 filter is definitely one of the best. A black matte almite frame reduces reflections and the black-rimmed glass minimizes the chance of light reflecting off the edge. A UV-protected case helps increase the life of the filter.
Breakthrough Photography’s X4 CPL is a solidly built filter. SCHOTT Superwhite B270 optical glass has been used in the optical element and each side of the glass is then treated with eight layers of Breakthrough Photography’s own nanotec and MRC (multi-resistant coatings) optical coatings, which essentially makes it dirt- and moisture-repellent.
The X4 CPL is available in different versions to fit thread sizes ranging from 39 to 105mm. It delivers the perfect color-neutral performance you would expect of a high-end polarizing filter and comes equipped with extremely high-quality, resistant glass, which means you’re less likely to see those tiny imperfections that could possibly ruin your images.
It’s one of the most expensive polarizing filters around and not really made for beginners. However, it’s a must-have for professional photographers.
The LEE Filters 75 x 90mm Seven5 Circular Polarizer Filter delivers great imaging performance and is very durable, with high-quality optical glass. Its design makes it compatible with the Seven5 Micro Filter System which is specifically made for smaller interchangeable lens cameras.
This Circular Polarizer helps in the reduction of ghosting and flare effects. It absorbs this polarized light, cuts through hazy conditions, and makes the skies clear and blue in your images. It also helps minimize reflections on glass and water.
Like every other polarizing filter, it works well when used at a 90-degree angle from the direction of sunlight. However, this lens is expensive and you may see some vignetting.
5. Tiffen 77mm Polarizer Filter (Budget Winner)
Tiffen’s 77mm Polarizer is a well-built filter that will give you the high performance you’re looking for in any outdoor shooting condition. It’s great at dramatically reducing or completely eliminating glare and deepening the intensity of blue skies. The available sizes range from 28 to 86mm.
The Tiffen Polarizer Filter is padded with a water-resistant nylon material and provides great color accuracy in most shooting conditions. This makes it one of the best mid-range polarizers for outdoor photography.
Picking the Best Polarizing Filters
Polarizing filters are one of the many important tools you should have in your kit. If you want to take your landscape photography to the next level with vibrant skies against stunning, detailed landscapes, you should get yourself one of these.